The latest “should they-shouldn't they” event with Facebook is the lift of the minimum age requirement ban. I get it. Kids under 13 were joining Facebook anyway. In fact, a lot of their parents lied to let their own kids in. Some parents go so far as to make Facebook accounts for their newborn babies (of course, that's a separate issue altogether). The reason behind not letting kids under the age of 13 in was that it creates new grounds for bullying. Newsflash: kids are cruel. If you don't want your child to be bullied, don't send them to school. Also, newsflash number 2: bullying also occurs with kids older than 13. Only at that age it becomes a little less physical and gets called 'emotional blackmail'. After 18, it's called “trolling”. Facebook is a safer environment for kids, in terms of bullying, than the playground at school is. On Facebook, you can block a bully and have no contact with them ever again. At school, if the kid musters the courage to complain to the teacher about the bully, said bully will get a slap on the wrist which he/she will transfer on to the bullied. Finally, if a kid is ever lucky, a bully will get thrown out of school. And then that kid's fate is doomed.
Kids, come in
Here's the thing. There are way more evil forces out there on the internet than Facebook. It's one thing if Facebook was worried about selling information of younger users but that's really not the issue at all. The only reason I would want to kick a user under 13 off of Facebook is because of how partial they are to overusage of emoticons. And exclamation marks. Of course, some adult users put up pictures of them snogging and more their significant others and they probably don't want their 12 year old cousins to see that. However, that's also the same reason I don't want my 60 year old parents and my 90 year old grandparents on Facebook. The bottom line: that's an issue of a simple “CONTROL WHO YOU SHARE WITH”.
The other thing that I notice about this scenario is how Facebook users go through the five stages of grief whenever there's any change to the service. It was the same case with Newsfeed, Timeline and multiple other features that were a complete overhaul to the format. Users started with denial – threaten to stop using Facebook if the format didn't go back. I call that denial because in general, most Facebook users (not all), deny their inability to get off the social network. Then comes anger. Zuckerberg you information stealing b-word. And multiple versions of that very statement become the popular contemporary status update. Bargaining. Ok Facebook, if you remove this one feature which steals my information, maybe I'll be okay with all these other features that steal my information. Facebook's answer to that is usually silence anyway. Depression. Mostly because you now have to figure out the way the new format works to get back to your stalking. And finally acceptance. Usually, these five stages take about 24-48 hours after a new format is rolled out.
I will say that the one thing I personally worry about when it comes to younger kids is creepy child predators. I think that kids need to be taught at younger ages what type of interaction is appropriate and what is not. More than bullying, I think this is an issue that parents of these kids need to talk about with the kids. If it weren't a massive invasion of privacy, one could also argue that Facebook needs to keep tabs on how younger kids are interacting, especially with adults. Parents could have access to their kids' accounts but then I also worry about paranoid helicopter moms who'll take the slightest negative message from one of their kids' friends and turn it into a mountain. So basically, when kids younger than 13 join Facebook, the issue is not keeping them safe from other kids, it's keeping them safe from some adults.
Bottom line: a 12 year old logging on to the internet has violence, b**bs and other societal taboos without any context, all at his or her fingertips. I say keep them on Facebook so they stay away from the other trash.